Monday 7 April 2003

Despair of a Village at Devastation

by Peter Arnett

Baker Nagill Sacanda Mohammed holds a blackened flatbread in his outstretched arms and begs for answers nobody can give.

Behind him are the smouldering remains of his bakery, the hub of this quiet Shi'ite community until the war finally caught up with it 45 minutes ago.

A few feet away, under sheets of bloodstained newspaper on the pavement, are the remains of his 12-year-old son Abu.

As the wind leafs through the pages then picks them up and blows them down the street, exposing the grisly stain they were laid down to hide, Nagill surveys the wreckage, and asks simply: "Why? Why?"

An hour ago, he was sweating over his brick ovens whose fires he had never allowed to go out since the war started, the only business to stay open. In the second he left his bread to cook and nipped to the back of the house, the heart was ripped out of his family and community.

"Look what they have done to me," he cries, looking at his bread in disbelief. "My son has been taken. My business has been taken.Why does the war come here?"

Looking around, I can only presume war came to al Salan by mistake.

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